How to pick a drive team?

Hello Robot World,
Would anyone be willing to share how you select your team’s drive team? Is there an assessment or metric you use to quantify who should be driving?

Thanks for sharing!

My team over the past few years has arranged a course for the robot drivetrain once it is up and running, and then hold driver tryouts. We also have students fill out forms to acknowledge that they will be responsible with being at all events and will be there and ready to drive the robot. that is because we had issues with it in the past. After this, it is very important to have one member on the drive team who knows the robot like the back of their hand. This is in order to tell when there’s a problem with the robot and to make quick fixes. Finally, we like to have a programmer there as well, or at least someone who knows their way through the autonomous codes, so that we can have the right code selected (that was very important this past year.) Finally, you want a drive team that can get along. Usually, having a student or young mentor as a drive coach is a good route to go, however they need to still be responsible.

I know that there’s a lot of different things there, and it’s almost impossible to satisfy everything, but sometimes you just have to find a balance of those that will work the best. My team was lucky enough to have a trio of guys that met all these requirements flawlessly and took us to worlds three years in a row.

I hope this helps

Thank you for the reply! We have tried the drive test concept, however the problem is what do you look for, or grade when you are watching the kids drive? Do you time speed, accuracy, or is there a rubric that allows for impartial feedback?

I guess I am looking for a more concrete way to say you are the best we got based on some kind of data.

Does that make sense?

Objectivity is good, but if you try to make a purely objective selection you can paint yourself into a corner without leaving yourself flexibility to consider other factors which may be important to you. I can’t say what those may be for you, but they could be rewarding sustained commitment and activity on the team, incorporating the ability to communicate to other teams, willingness to follow direction and other things like these that are difficult to quantify 100% objectively.

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The course we create usually requires a student to perform tasks which require speed and accuracy, and usually we incorporate a necessary action from that year’s game. For reference, we tested drivers on their ability to line up to a peg for 2017, or a driver’s ability to go the right speed over the defenses in 2016 without damaging the robot. The driver is timed in completing these tasks, and if they don’t we’ll either disqualify them from that attempt, or give them a time penalty.

I coach and pick the drive team for a Jr. High FTC team. Here is what I do every year:

  1. Give EVERY member a scoring quiz a week after kickoff. This doesn’t give me much of an insight of driving, but rather which students are serious about the program (who took the time to study).

  2. Ask the students who would like to drive, and for what position. Not every student wants to be on the drive team, so this helps narrow it down and take pressure off of those who don’t want to try out.

  3. Give students who want to try out a rules quiz. This will help narrow down the candidates. Those trying out for Drive Coach get a more in-depth quiz.

  4. Narrow down the candidates and give them time for drive practice. During this time I can see who improves and who works well together.

  5. Sit down with each drive coach candidate. Get a feel for how confident they will be on the field.

  6. Set up an obstacle course that mimics the field during match conditions. Have each driver run the course 3 times, making note of improvements over time.

  7. Run top 2-3 Drive Coach and Driver candidates with Manipulator candidates. See which team works best together. Have an adult mentor drive a practice team as a “partner” so you can see how the Drive Coach works with someone who might not follow directions.

  8. Pick the drive team. The Drive Coach should be confident, knowledgeable, and works well with other teams. The Driver should be quick and efficient when driving. The Manipulator should make the robot look like those functions are autonomous.

  9. Get ready for backlash. Not everyone will be happy with the outcome, but you should make sure all concerns are addressed. Keep backup drivers in mind as something might happen to your main team.

I forget where I heard /read this, but there is a certain philsophy for choosing drivers that basically says: Choose people that are responsible, communicate well, and can perform under pressure. They don’t necessarily have to be the best at driving, heck they might even be terrible at it in the beginning. However, with enough practice, anyone can become a great driver. We did this with our drivers last year l (they both happened to be our team co-captains) and it worked really well for us so we are continuing using this selection criteria for 2019.

Edit: Additionally it always helps to have a programmer as part of drive team (doesn’t have to be driver, could be technician or human player), and to a lesser extent someone from the mechanical/electrical team. These folks can really help you in a pinch if you need to upload/restore code right before a match while in que and will have the know-how to identify and quickly fix small issues on the robot like lose screws/collars, unplugged wires, ect.

For 2607 when we pick a drive team we basically go off of these documents.

You should learn how to embed long URLS like those, makes for a… more pleasant reading experience :stuck_out_tongue:

Very subjective for us. The most important thing is definitely showing up/wanting to practice.

Secondary but also important characteristics are having the fine motor skills required for driving and being an effective communicator.

Picking a programmer to drive is also nice, since they get extra stick time.

Links do not seem to load anything. Can you put the files in Google Drive and then share the link?

RE: My previous post
Sorry, I thought I could just delete or edit if it didn’t work…my bad

If this doesn’t work I give up
Sorry for the last post

These are AWESOME! Thanks for sharing. Quick follow up question: when it says, “will be tested on” how do you test? Google Form, pencil paper, essay style?

Yeah we did a pencil and paper test made by the head mentor and our student coach. Everyone that wants to be on drive team must take it. Depending on what place you tried for there was more emphasis placed on different parts of the test. I went for the human player so I had to know everything about the vault and the rules of the exchange. Driver and Operator had to know everything about fouls and penalties etc etc. I might be able to get a copy of the test if you want it?

A search on this forum should find many threads on this topic. There are many ways to do it so choose the one that fits your situation the best.

Thanks. I will take anything you are willing to share!

I think you will find that the best driver cannot be determined purely quantitatively. You can determine who has the best eye hand coordination or the most skill at any particular aspect of operating the machine, but you cannot tell who can do it under competition stress.
The ability to drive well in the shop with nothing on the line is not directly transferable to the ability to perform in front of thousands of people with your entire team’s season on the line.

We use off season events to select our drive team. It’s the only way to create an environment similar to what they will experience in the spring.

You’re not going to get any single answer to the question posed in the title. It’s a widely debated question with multiple valid answers.

Realistically, first you need to have some form of standard tryout. Doesn’t really matter what, just standardize it and make it somewhat challenging. An obstacle course or a slalom, something to that effect. This is to get a gauge on “mechanical ability” - not mechanical as machinery, but rather another definition: “the way in which something is done or operated; the practicalities or details of something.” AKA - raw driving talent.

Second, you should also examine candidates on strategy and/or game knowledge. Rules questions, open-ended strategy questions, etc.

What differs between people is how much to weigh each area of the selection process. Some people will choose the most mechanically gifted student and teach them strategy over the course of the build season, or rely on the drive coach to be the strategist behind the glass. Others will choose the smartest strategy person and have them practice driving enough to improve their mechanics of driving the robot.

It’s up to you. I’ve had numerous conversations with people about which areas to weigh more heavily and it’s hard to come to a consensus. Do what you think will lead to the most success. And remember - you may not always have perfect candidates. That’s what practice is for.

I don’t pick based on any hard data from a tryout. I have used time drills to judge in the past, but the point was to watch someone perform under self-imposed stress. Ultimately speed of execution comes down to practice and iterating the robot design.

Here are my key priorities

  1. Do you want to (they have to ask in person)
  2. Attendance / academic standing (will you be able to make all the competitions?)
  3. Maturity / respect of the team
  4. Maturity / can you handle the pressure
  5. Communication (are you willing / able to provide feedback to the coach and pit crew)
  6. Communication / cooperation (can you work as a drive team)
  7. Stick skills

You could make this into a decision matrix and give everyone a score if you want your decision based on “data” even though most of the above is subjective.


Something I havent seen mentioned here yet 1114’s Team Management Seminar/PDF. 4513 has used this (the qualities order specifically) as a baseline to help pick their drive team for the past couple years. We also use a rules test (personally partial to 1836’s but you can easily make your own) mainly to see who’s interested and actually paying attention to the rules.

We also do a drive test with time limits, but as D.Allred said its not the greatest for seeing who’s best with the bot. Driving skill is the easiest thing to improve, and if thats the only issue with someone they may still be the right choice.